Humans crave connection, but we habitually retreat to our homes where we are separated from the outside world.
Dave Martin, a builder and entrepreneur, is challenging us to consider new, sustainable ways of living that foster bonds with nature, people and communities.
Dave lives at Cape Paterson, in south eastern Victoria, in a carbon positive house which he designed and built. His latest venture, The Sociable Weaver, aims to transform our urban environment and mainstream carbon positive, eco-homes that create a sense of belonging and connection.
I live in a Victorian house with a 1980s renovation and am always questioning how I can live sustainably. Talking with Dave opened a window into a world of possibilities.
A key moment happened when I was in year 10 working through a building and construction course. It was a new course and instead of building a TV cabinet, you were able to build something useful. We had to build horse stables for the agricultural department. I remember I was up a ladder nailing rafters in place, and I had an epiphany. I thought, “This is amazing, I love it!” I realised I was creating a purposeful structure and felt I was accomplishing something meaningful. My mum wanted me to pursue tertiary studies, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I chose a building apprenticeship instead. I started digging holes and sweeping floors and ended up directing sites.
My teenage years were also when I developed a connection with nature, which stemmed from my parents. When I was a teenager, they trucked us around doing a lot of bushwalking, camping and cycling. They took us to Tasmania, Cradle Mountain, then the South West Track when I was about 14. We flew in by Cessna, landed on the beach and walked out. It took two weeks. I wasn’t at the age to appreciate it how I would now. They also took us up to central Australia and Indonesia for a couple of months along with similar trips that now I realise helped develop my understanding and connection to the world.
I believe our path is fated. If we wander too far off that path of our purpose, we get slapped to say “Mate, get back on the path.” I was married when I was 22. Jen and I were childhood sweethearts. We had two kids, a boy and a girl and we built our own house. My plan was to retire when I was 30 and live a good life, travel, surf and have a family. That was it. I was totally naïve and something in the universe just went slap!
I felt my whole life was ruined. Jen met another guy, Leigh. I thought I’d lose my kids because he’ll become their new father. It was really tough at the time, but it woke me up and allowed me to look at life. My perception of the world changed. It was like a switch was flicked and I looked at life in a completely different, bigger picture kind of way. Then 12 months after we went through all the legal and financial stuff, things became easier. I approached Jen and Leigh and said, “Let’s concentrate on these beautiful kids, let’s show them love and respect.” It took some time and looking deep inside, but now Jen, Leigh, myself and my parents are one super tight unit. Leigh is like my brother; we hug every time we meet. He has an eight year old Mia who I say is one of mine as well. It’s so messed up, but so beautiful, and it works. We call it a beautiful mess.
I feel it’s our responsibility to live in coherence with the planet and to educate the next generation about what’s important and meaningful in life. I’ve been given skills in building, people, inspiration and energy to create teams and businesses. The idea is to educate people about how we can live in harmony and create positive change for the world, that’s what drives me. I think it all goes back to love and connection. We all want and need love and connection.
I see my purpose as creating positive change to humanity, animals and the planet. We need as much nature around us as possible. It has a calming, positive affect on our wellbeing, even if we are not conscious of it. On an unconscious level there’s something that happens with having plants and animals around us. We need to blend the home with the natural environment. If we can connect people with nature, it has this unconscious effect of calming and soothing like a Zen garden.
I want to inspire and motivate people to do something different and better. We can strategically build places or configure existing places to influence community interaction through buildings. The way we live now, we are fenced off from each other and there’s no integration with the streetscape. If we take the barriers away, open up the streetscapes and create spaces with nature, food, art and music, people will be attracted and feed off each other and create a thriving community.
Visit thesociableweaver.com.au for more information.
© Matilda Bowra 2016